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Faculty Welfare Committee

The Faculty Welfare Committee (FWC) met five times during the academic year: September 14, October 26, December 15, March 11, and April 22. The first two meetings were chaired by Professor Elmira Popova, and the last three meetings were chaired by Professor Uttarayan Bagchi, who replaced Professor Popova as the committee chair on January 8. As a way of marking continuity with the 2008-09 FWC, the 2009-10 FWC started the year by considering UT’s response to the Gender Equity Task Force report. In the middle of the academic year, the FWC discussed how a culture of anxiety seems to have developed at UT. In 2010, the FWC focused on the rights of lecturers and non-tenure track faculty. It is the committee’s recommendation that the 2010-11 FWC follow up on previous FWC initiatives including monitoring the rights of lecturers and other non-tenure track faculty.

The following summarizes the FWC’s efforts for the 2009-10 year.
  • At the October 26 meeting, Vice Provost Langlois gave an update of the actions taken by the University in response to the Gender Equity Task Force report:
    • New resources for dual career hiring
    • Over 50 percent women faculty were hired last year
    • The provost’s office provided best practices information to the deans
    • The establishment of a new gender council from inside and outside UT to give feedback to the provost’s office and meet twice a year.
    • Leadership institute – workshop for department chairs, will be open for emerging leaders.
  • Topics also discussed at the October 26 meeting were: faculty information data - new web-based faculty application site; gender equity report card to be delivered every year after November 1; Benchmark committee. Could UT Austin do with a human resources web page similar to the UT San Antonio human resources web page: It turned out that the public affairs office at UT Austin was already working on a web page.
  • Topics discussed at the December 15 meeting included:
    • There is widespread concern that a culture of anxiety prevails at UT Austin, and there is a deep sense of loss attending staff layoffs. The anxiety is compounded by the lack of information and the consequent uncertainty.
    • Should the committee write a letter to President Powers requesting that he address the anxiety and sense of loss in a more public and forthright manner?
    • Faculty sabbatical: When can we have a real sabbatical that we as individual faculty can plan on?
  • At the March 11 meeting, Professor Bagchi was elected chair-elect for the FWC 2010-11.
  • Linda Gerber, senior lecturer, marketing and Michael Hasler, lecturer, IROM attended the March 11 meeting for fifteen minutes or so as invitees. They shared with the FWC some personal observations on lecturers and non-tenure track faculty:
    • There is concern that a four course teaching load may both inhibit and underestimate the service role of faculty.
    • Summer health insurance coverage is often tricky.
    • there may be a gender bias in how service is undervalued relative to teaching in promotion decisions
    • Could the title of clinical professor lend more credibility in the classroom?
  • The April 22 meeting started with an open discussion of the rights of lecturers and non-tenure track faculty. The following points were made:
    • It appears that in some colleges, non-tenure track faculty are not eligible for the really big teaching awards.
    • Because some colleges make clinical appointments (instructor/lecturer/professor) and others don’t, there is some confusion attending which non-tenure track faculty have voting rights and which don’t. The same confusion seems to attend eligibility for travel money.
    • It would be nice to know what funding sources are available to non-tenure track faculty for various purposes (course development, meeting attendance, research etc.).
    • There is concern that the non-tenure track faculty are often viewed as temporary, transient, and non-loyal. This despite the fact that many non-tenure track faculty have spent their entire professional career at UT carrying a full-time academic load. And measured by the willingness to make a personal sacrifice for their employer—as in putting in extra time to serve the needs of students, administrators, recruiters, and UT benefactors—the loyalty of these faculty is unquestionable.
  • Professor Karroll Kitt, a member of the Faculty Council, attended the meeting for fifteen minutes as an invitee to give us a preview of 2010-11 insurance costs/benefits. She made the following points:
    • Insurance payouts this year (2009-10) are projected to exceed insurance premiums, the deficit likely to be covered by a special fund for this year only.
    • Health insurance is going to cost more in 2010-11. The scope of coverage is unlikely to shrink, but a mix of higher premiums and higher deductibles and/or copayments will be called for. The only question is how much of the additional cost will be due to higher premiums and how much due to higher deductibles and copayments.
    • The FWC should make known to her its views on the insurance situation.
  • The FWC discussed the issues raised by Professor Kitt and expressed its concern about the added burden higher insurance cost will place on faculty and staff. The committee felt that more could and should be done collectively and individually to promote health and wellness of UT employees.
  • For 2010-2011, the FWC recommended better follow-up of previous initiatives including monitoring the rights of lecturers and other non-tenure track faculty.
  • In response to a request for quick feedback from Professor Karroll Kitt soliciting the FWC’s opinion on which insurance alternative will be better for UT Austin in 2010-2011, the FWC said it was split down the middle in choosing between 1) a 10 percent premium increase tied to a 4 percent increase in user-fees (copays/deductibles) and 2) a 12 percent premium increase tied to a 2 percent increase in user-fees (copays/deductibles).
Uttarayan Bagchi, chair